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A Christmas Carol, Old Kirk, Kirkcaldy

The way to Scrooge's office presently lies through the graveyard that wraps around the historic Old Kirk in Kirkcaldy, where the National Theatre of Scotland is reviving the vivid, pungent version of Dickens's A Christmas Carol that made such a memorable impression last year.

Is some shade of Marley lurking among the tombs? Or has the ground disgorged the gibbering, capering forms who pounce on us as we reach the office door, demanding: "Ticket! Ticket! Ticket!" and chivvying us into their chosen place for us.

If the site brings its own specific subtext of transience and redemption to the work, Scrooge's self-contained office-cum-dwelling is just as it was in Govan 2011. Dingy and cluttered with ceiling-high shelves of ledgers and yellowing scrips, its very walls will – as Scrooge's rehabilitation progresses – seem like a porous interface between his world and that of the spirits who visit him.

And again, there is the surprising edge of grotesque horror that comes with using imaginatively bizarre puppets, not people, to character the ghosts and those they present to Scrooge. The pinched, blue-tinged faces of the Cratchit marionettes, for instance, whisper of oxygen starvation as if they can't afford to draw breath.

What has changed in Graham McLaren's visceral, visionary – and often wickedly humorous – production is the tellingly nuanced delivery that the (almost-unchanged) cast bring to Dickens's text.

How cogent, how shocking, how painfully timely is Scrooge's initially high-handed dismissal of the needy, with Benny Young's Scottish miser brilliantly balanced on the cusp of comedic skinflint and hard-hearted businessman.

The unstinting versatility of the supporting cast is a joy, the whole event – its design, musicality and concept – resonates with a brilliance beyond star ratings. The walk through that graveyard afterwards feels different, somehow -

HHHHH

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